Frith and Conigree forest plan
The Frith and Conigree plan area consists of two woods with a combined area of 137 hectares (ha), a mile or so to the east of Ledbury in Herefordshire. Both woods are within the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and are prominent in a landscape of similar small blocks of steeply sloping woodland, many connected by hedges across fields. 95% of the plan area is recorded as ancient woodland, 89% of which is PAWS – plantation on ancient woodland site. An archaeological survey (2003) reported the presence of numerous features, including charcoal burning platforms, small quarries, lynchets (ridges) from ancient field systems and holloways (sunken paths). The woodlands are crossed by public rights of way, including the long distance trail – the ‘Geopark Way’.
Both woodlands have high conservation value, with bats, dormice and ground flora being important features of Frith, and veteran trees, flora and associated moths, significant in Conigree. There is little open space, but numerous other habitats for wildlife, notably dead wood and prolific shrub layer.
Frith and Conigree have previously been managed as broadleaf coppice, but conifer planting during the 20th century has resulted in an overall 66% broadleaves and 32% conifers (with 2% of the plan area currently recorded as open space).
The woodlands are species diverse, but not necessarily structurally diverse, due to the large proportion of trees that were planted in the 1960s. There are older trees scattered throughout both woods – 5% of Conigree’s and 6% of Frith’s trees date from before 1900.
During the past 10-15 years, there has been some rideside coppicing in both woods – in Frith this is to encourage the nationally important spreading bellflower, and in Conigree to improve the habitat for wild privet and other important plants. In terms of larger scale forestry operations, with the goal of PAWS restoration in mind, conifers have been cleared from parts of the northern half of Frith – these areas are now regenerating with native broadleaf trees – but there has been little work in Conigree, where thinning and clearfell contracts have been delayed due to ongoing access issues (steep, wet ground and the presence of protected species such as dormice).
The aims of management in Frith and Conigree include:
Sustainability - we will practice exemplary forest management, as demonstrated by our continued certification under the UK Woodland Assurance Standard.
Biodiversity - we will renew our commitment to coppice management; some areas will be restored as native broadleaved woodland, while others retain mixtures of conifers and broadleaves.
Resilience - we will continue to encourage diversification of species and age structure through active management, so that Frith and Conigree thrive in the face of threats of pests and diseases.
Productivity - Frith and Conigree will provide timber from both conifer and broadleaf crops, to meet current and future demands.
Community - Frith and Conigree will be enjoyed by local people for low key recreation and connection with nature and wildlife; and we will continue to work with, and value, the contribution of volunteers.
What we’ll do
We are keen to regenerate coppicing as a management method in Frith, on a larger scale than that which has been done in recent years. This will create, and maintain in the long term, a mosaic of habitats for the valuable flora and fauna associated with the wood. Although previous management has focussed on the removal of conifers for PAWS restoration, the relatively small remaining patches of conifers contribute to the diversity of structure and habitat, so these will be thinned, but not clearfelled, meaning that we will have more time to focus on the broadleaf areas.
In Conigree, where there are more conifers and the whole wood is more even-aged, ground flora has been somewhat shaded out, so there will be a series of small-scale conifer clearfells over the next 30 years, leading to temporary open space and the restoration of native broadleaved woodland. One or two coupes will be re-coppiced, and ridesides opened up. Areas of mixed conifers and broadleaves will continue to be thinned to favour the broadleaves.